For Lincolnshire farmer Julian Anyan, having a hip replacement at St Hugh’s Hospital saw him return to the place of his birth… well, kind of!
Julian was born in the old St Hugh’s, the hospital founded by The Sisters of the Order of St Joseph of Peace in Princes Road, Cleethorpes.
He came into the world on December 27, 1966, and the connection came up in conversation at his pre-op meeting in December, prior to him attending for surgery.
“I didn’t realise it was the same organisation until we started talking,” he explained. “I was christened there too, when I was a day old, because they thought it wasn’t going to end well.
“I was born with my bowel and intestines all twisted. You know when you have a hosepipe, and it kinks? That was it – but they didn’t know to start with what it was, and I was fizzling out.
“So, they christened me, and I was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital at about two days old to try and do something, had about three operations, and then spent six months in an incubator and the next 10 years of my life, more or less, in and out of hospital.
“Because of course every time I grew a little bit, my insides would kink again. I’m only guessing now because my parents aren’t here to ask them the finer details, but I’d have to go in about once a year to have it sorted. Sometimes it would get infected… hospital was a large part of my childhood.
“It was just life for me, and I didn’t really think anything of it but obviously, all those years ago it was quite pioneering.
“I had my last operation when I was nine or 10 years old, so that would have been in about 1977 or 1978, and touch wood I’ve got over that.
“Until I was about 13, I wasn’t allowed to play any contact sports at school, so that really made me fed up. But since then, I’ve been very sporty, hence having worn my hip out and having to come into St Hugh’s as an adult for another one!
“My godmother was Sister Maria from St Hugh’s, who I assume was quite an older person by that time, but I remember my mum, Eva, taking me back there to meet her when I was four or five years old. She gave me some chocolates – I remember that very clearly!
“But since then, I’ve had no contact with the hospital until now. It’s quite ironic.”
The original hospital first opened to people in Grimsby and Cleethorpes in 1938. By 1961, 17 beds were added to the 30 that already existed as it catered for increasing demand. Skip to 1985 and the formation of the Healthcare Management Trust, and the ownership of St Hugh’s was transferred to the trust; in 1994, the current hospital in Peaks Lane was opened… and the rest is history.
Julian underwent a right hip replacement with us just before Christmas, opting for private treatment because of the short waiting time. He runs a farm near Market Rasen – having taken over from his father, Roland, a farmer, and a pilot during the war – and needed to be well enough to begin work again in February.
The arable farm has been in the family for three generations and although he would have liked to have followed in his father’s footsteps into the RAF, he felt the pull of the farm. He worked abroad for a while, returning to the UK to train at agricultural college, and then took over the farm, where he lives with his headteacher wife, Louise.
Julian has an older brother, Ivor, who died four years ago, and an older sister, Diane, who lives in London.
“She is 11 years older than me and can remember Sister Maria,” said Julian. “Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’d imagined her! I thought I might have watched Call The Midwife too many times and magicked her up!
“Diane can remember me being poorly. She couldn’t come and see me for months after I was born. I recall my brother – who was 15 years older than me – saying he was out and about when I was born.
“Things weren’t quite as easy then as they are now. Travelling to Sheffield in the car with Dad was an absolute nightmare… horrible to get there. There was no M62 or M180 or anything like that. No sat-navs… we got lost every time we went!”
But his appreciation for what the hospital did for him has remained; a couple of years ago, Julian took part in a charity bike ride to raise money for it, in honour of a friend’s child who’d received treatment there – and that was the first time he’d ever been back there, too.
In fact, saying he’s been “very sporty” in adulthood is a slight understatement.
During school days at Lincoln Cathedral School and then Worksop College he played rugby, hockey, and cricket, afterwards playing hockey for Grimsby, and rugby for Market Rasen for a total of 30 years. After leaving rugby behind, he started marathon running, and running in general, and he’s a keen cyclist, too.
In 2015 he was training for the Paris Marathon with no health problems. Then, he said, something happened – and he can vividly recall exactly where he was.
“I was at mile 16 on the marathon, just going through the underpass where Princess Diana’s fatal car crash occurred, and all of a sudden I got a jabbing pain – literally like someone had stabbed me in the hip, for just a split second, and my knee gave way. I didn’t fall over, I just kind of flopped a bit to one side, and then it did it again towards the end, but I didn’t think anything of it.
“But really that was the start of it. It then progressively happened every time I went for a run and then gradually would start aching… this was a building-up over time. I did a couple of other marathons later that month, and then a mountain marathon in Keswick at the end of that month.
“I do a lot of cycling normally and that was fine, it didn’t bother me. But then after my brother died, I ran the London Marathon to raise money for cancer research. I started training for that in the autumn and my hip area felt restrictive and painful… never thought in a million years it was actually my hip itself.
“So, I carried on training and did the marathon, taking painkillers, and then a couple of weeks later I thought I’d better just have it checked out, so I had an x-ray and that showed a hip spur (smooth, hard bumps that form on the end of bones) and arthritis.
“I have no family history of joint problems or anything like that. I asked the doctor, ‘when will I know that I need a new hip?’ and he replied, ‘your hip will tell you’.
“Sure enough, three years later it had got gradually worse. I carried on running until the summer of 2021, it just got too much, and have never stopped cycling; I was cycling up until the week before I went for the surgery. At first, I couldn’t feel it on the bike – I could do 100 miles and not feel a thing, but then I did start to feel it.
“Last October half-term we went to Norfolk walking for a week, about 10 to 15 miles a day, and I think that’s what crippled me. I’d been in pain for about five months, more with pain in my knee than anything else [pain from hip problems can often be felt in the knee]. It was the thought that I’d done something to my knee as well that spurred me on, so at the beginning of December I asked the doctor for another x-ray, and I was sent to a consultant at St Hugh’s.”
That was consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Rohit Rambani, who specialises in hips and knees, and sport surgery.
“He had a big screen in front of him to look at the x-ray and he said, ‘you need a new hip,” said Julian. “I could not believe it. The spur on my hip was touching nerves that came out under my knee-cap – thankfully there’s nothing wrong with my knee.
“I needed the operation because this is my quiet time for work. I was told I could be waiting for up to six months, so I asked about private treatment. He looked at his diary and asked, ‘do you want one for Christmas?’
“Ten days on from that appointment, I got one and was back home. Best Christmas present ever!
“It was excellent care. I stayed in for one night. I had the operation at midday, with an epidural. The worst part was having the epidural – the spray to numb me was freezing cold! The needle made me smart a bit but then I felt this numb sensation rush down my leg and then I was fine.
“I was covered up with a lovely, heated blanket and felt quite sedated. It was just like listening to the agricultural engineer I use on the farm working on one of my machines – banging and crashing and grinding and electric drills and all sorts. But I had no appreciation that it was happening to me; it felt like I was listening in from another room. It only took 40 minutes – I mean, isn’t that just incredible!
“They got me out of bed the following morning and I haven’t felt any pain in my knee since.”
From day one back home, Julian has been walking every day, building up his strength. And when we spoke, he was planning to get back onto his indoor cycle.
“It’s getting better every day,” he said. “Though I admit it’s a weird feeling to think I’ve got something metal in there! At first it felt like I had a golf ball in my bum cheek! It was very strange but thankfully I’m not needing any painkillers at all, which is a relief.
“Touch wood, it will last me 20-odd years now. I’ve been told because I’m quite young to have it in the first place, I can have it again two more times, so I’ve decided to give up running now. I want it to last me as long as possible.
“But I do have a 100-mile cycle race, RideLondon, to get fit for in May, so that’s my goal.
“Everything at St Hugh’s was brilliant, I couldn’t fault it – the staff, Mr Rambani… the food was brilliant.
“The plan is to carry on moseying about, keeping myself safe while I heal, and waiting for a follow-up appointment in February.
“Some people I know have lived with a really bad hip, in really bad pain, for years because they’re too frightened to get it done. They’ve wasted years of their lives. Before my pain got bad, I’d walk up to 15 miles a day. The day before my operation, we went to the beach at Hut toft and I managed 1.2 miles – that’s it, that was my lot.
“That’s not me. That’s not the quality of life I want, or how I want to live my life. Although the farm is mechanised and all I do is sit in a machine and it steers itself, I still need to be able to jump in and out of them; that was the problem. I’m very lucky because I’ll be back at work in good time.
“All these people who are too worried about having one, or keep putting it off, I’d say to them – go for it.”
Find out more about hip replacements at hmtsthughs.org/treatment/total-hip-replacement